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Home / Poker / EPT Prague: Landmarks from 15 years in the Czech Republic, plus city travel guide

Prague is a popular stop on the EPT circuit, with hectic tournament action and a wide variety of cash games, complemented by a beautiful city packed with bars and restaurants that never break the bank.

Here is the complete guide to the event including a look back at some landmark moments, and everything you need to know at or away from the tables.

EVENT OVERVIEW

The European Poker Tour first visited Prague in 2007 and was an immediate hit. It has been a fixture on the circuit ever since. Prague’s charms in the run-up to Christmas made it the perfect fit for the winter months, while its geographical location at the centre of Europe put it in striking distance for players from all over the world. It invariably attracts the most diverse field on the tour, with no one country dominating the attendance statistics. From 14 Main Events, winners have come from 10 different countries.

After starting with around 600 runners, the Main Event now usually has around 1,000 entries and a prize pool of more than €5 million. Stephen Graner, the only American Main Event winner to date, won the biggest ever first prize at the time: €969,000 in 2014.

A €50,000 Super High Roller event was added to the schedule in 2014, complementing a full schedule of side events. Players and staff alike anticipate their annual trip to Prague more eagerly than any other stop on the schedule. Christmas hasn’t properly begun until you’ve sampled the crisp winter air of the Czech Republic.

SIX OF THE BEST PRAGUE HIGHLIGHTS

Highlights have come thick and fast at EPT Prague, but with apologies to all of the great winners that didn’t make this subjective cut, here are six of our favourite moments from the past 15 years.

2007: An encouraging start — and a popular French champion

Arnaud Mattern, the first EPT Prague winner


There had been three full seasons of the European Poker Tour before Prague appeared on the schedule, and it immediately ended the search for a durable destination in central or eastern Europe. With Barcelona, Monte Carlo, London, Deauville and Copenhagen already established, Prague opened up the east of the continent, and players were instantly taken by the prospect of the Czech Republic in December. There were 555 entries to the first EPT Prague Main Event, from which France’s Arnaud Mattern emerged as the champion. Mattern, who would go on to represent Team PokerStars Pro, banked €708K from a €2.5 million prize pool.

2009: The first (and only) home-town winner

Jan Skampa: Home-town hero


One of Prague’s most compelling attractions is its location at the centre of Europe, with easy access from everywhere in both west and east. The field is always among the most diverse on the calendar, with players coming from numerous countries to join the fray. However, in 2009, the winner was able to walk from his house to the Hilton Prague every day: Prague native Jan Skampa won the title in his home town. Skampa had already been to an EPT final table the month before, in Vilamoura, Portugal, where he finished fourth. But in Prague, the mild-mannered finance student, was ruthless in his cruise to the title. Skampa won €682,000 for beating a 586-entry field, but withdrew from poker only a couple of years later. He is now an investor — but remains the Czech Republic’s only EPT Main Event champion.

2015: A future World Champion makes his mark

Hossein Ensan: Three EPT final tables, before WSOP win


Only one person has ever won Main Events on both the EPT and at the World Series of Poker, and he claimed the first of those landmark victories at EPT Prague in 2015. The Main Event that year had everything: an enormous field (1,044), an absolutely crazy four-way all-in and then a titanic heads-up battle between two beasts. And the winner was Hossein Ensan, who made it through his third EPT final table to bank €754,510 after agreeing a chop with Gleb Tremzin. Four years later, however, Ensan went even better when he won the huge showpiece in Las Vegas for $10 million.

2016: The last ever EPT? Well, that’s what we thought

Jasper Meijer Van Putten: They thought it was all over


The European Poker Tour had run for 13 highly successful seasons when it seemed time to shake it up a bit and relaunch PokerStars’ live offering. On the eve of the PokerStars Championship taking over, what was supposed to be the final ever EPT festival was scheduled for Prague in December 2016. Dutchman Jasper Meijer van Putten beat a field of 1,192 — the biggest in the city’s history — to the final EPT title, banking €699,300 after a deal. However, the EPT could not be kept in the shadows for too long. And, after just a solitary season, the PokerStars Championship gave way and the EPT came back. So Meijer van Putten was, and was not, the last EPT champion.

2019: Pobal completes a famous double

Mikalai Pobal: Two-timer


It was one of poker’s most durable and unexplainable hoodoos: how come nobody could win a second EPT Main Event? The question remained unanswered for the EPT’s first 10 and a half years, until Victoria Coren Mitchell added victory in Sanremo to her EPT London success. However, the poker world had to wait another five and a half years until somebody else matched Coren Mitchell’s achievement — and it happened in Prague, where Belarus’s Mikalai Pobal, a former EPT Barcelona champion, sealed the deal at another Main Event. Pobal won more than €1 million, the only seven-figure EPT Prague Main Event prize, and became the first man to win two.

2022: A spring date for an enormous EPT Prague return

Grzegorz Glowny: The first of two 2022 EPT Prague winners


The Covid-19 pandemic meant there were no EPT Prague festivals in either 2020 or 2021. But as restrictions gradually lifted across the world, Prague became the first city to return to the regular EPT schedule in a rearranged slot. Typically, we head to Prague in the run-up to Christmas, but December 2021 was still too tricky. So an alternative date was found, for March 2022, and the tour came back with a bang. There were 1,190 entries to the €5K Main Event, only two shy of a record, as a poker-starved public showed their appreciation. Grzegorz Glowny, of Poland, became the champion and won €692,252 after a four-way deal.

SPECTACULAR PRAGUE, EUROPE’S GEM OF A CITY

Pity anybody who has booked a room at Hilton Prague and knows nothing about poker. The European Poker Tour essentially takes over the entire hotel, with the main tournament room in the vast Congress Hall (12,677 square feet; 1,178 square metres), an overspill tournament room in the “Chez Louis Salon”, and cash games taking place in the Grand Ballroom. Both the latter two are on the mezzanine floor.

The hotel itself is on the banks of the Vltava River, in an area of Prague known as Karlin. It is not quite in the Old Town, but only about a 10-minute walk to the east of the old Jewish Quarter and not much further from the iconic Old Town Square.

Prague is best explored on foot, and it is an absolute chocolate-box delight. (This goes double in the run-up to Christmas, where the city’s narrow streets are decked with lights and its city squares come alive with Christmas markets. None are more popular or more charming than the main market in the Old Town Square, where stalls selling delicious traditional foodstuffs — Prague ham, sweet Trdelník cake and hot wine — are lined beneath the soaring tower of the Old Town Hall.)

Prague’s Old Town square

Prague’s mediaeval architecture is second to nowhere in the world, with the Town Hall among its most famous monuments. The pedestrian-only 14th century Charles Bridge (Karlův most), lined with stone statues, links this side of the city to further beauties in the area known as Malá Strana, or “Lesser Town”. That’s a matter of opinion, because the staggering castle complex here includes some of the finest buildings in the continent, chief among them the peerless St. Vitus Cathedral. The western facade, in particular, is breathtaking.

There are countless cafes, restaurants and bars tucked in tiny nooks and crannies among the labyrinthine streets, and one can spend hours in aimless, directionless wanderings, without ever needing to know where one really is.

Wenceslas Square is more modern and not intrinsically attractive, but it is worth a visit as one of the most significant locations in the region’s history. Thousands of people poured into Wenceslas Square during the Velvet Revolution of 1989, marking the collapse of communist rule in the former Czechoslovakia. The enormous Czech National Museum sits at the top of the square, packed with artefacts from all eras of the region’s history.

If you’re in the mood for sightseeing slightly further afield, the extraordinary fortress of Vyšehrad is well worth a visit. It has a remarkable village-within-the-city feel to it, and has its own beautiful church with fascinating graveyard. Its permanent residents are drawn exclusively from the world of politics, science, culture and the arts, and include the composer Antonín Dvořák. The area has panoramic views across Prague.

GETTING THERE

People come from across the world to play at EPT Prague, and though there are rail and road options to get to the landlocked Czech Republic from mainland Europe, most people are going to be flying in to Vaclav Havel international airport. Direct flights come from almost all major European hubs, plus JFK and Newark in New York, Philadelphia, Toronto, Montreal, Seoul, Chengdu, Doha and Beirut. (Some of those routes are seasonal.) It’s usually easiest for visitors from North America to transfer through London, Frankfurt or Amsterdam.

From the airport, it’s a comfortable 30-minute taxi ride to the Hilton and PokerStars Travel can arrange a transfer for €35. Alternatively, you can get a taxi from the rank outside the airport, from where a cab to the centre of the city is usually around 650-700 CZK (about $26-$30).

Plenty of transport options in Prague

Public transport: It is also cheap and easy to get pubic transportation to and from the airport, though it requires both a bus and a subway ride. During daytime, take the 119 bus from outside either of the two terminal buildings to Veleslavín train station, where you can change on to the Metro Line A. (Alternatively, you can take the 100 bus and change on to Metro Line B at Zličín.) At night, the 910 bus route runs into the city centre (between the hours of midnight and 4am only). See the official airport website for full details.

ACCOMMODATION

EPT Prague takes place in the conference facilities of Hilton Prague (Pobrenzni 1, Prague, 186 00, Czech Republic. Tel: +420-2-2484-1111). It is a well-appointed, high end business hotel with several restaurants and bars on site as well as a spa, gym, swimming pool and two squash courts. It is among the most expensive hotels in the city, but you know what you’re getting with Hilton, and you get what you pay for. (Note: there are actually two Hilton Hotels in Prague. Hilton Prague Old Town is only a short walk away, but these are not the same premises.)

The Prague Hilton

There are numerous other hotels close to the tournament venue to suit all budgets including:

The three-star B&B Hotel Prague is as good as next door, with the added benefit of being closest to the Hilton entrance that takes you straight into the tournament room. Similarly, Botanique Hotel Prague https://www.hotelbotanique.com/ is a very short walk away, most of it through an indoor, heated shopping mall.

Only slightly further afield is the Hotel Embassy Prague, no more than a five-minute walk to the Hilton. It’s a very comfortable place to stay.

PokerStars Travel has additional accommodation options.

FOOD

Food in Prague ticks all the boxes of all but the most pernickety traveller: it is plentiful, wholesome, delicious and so very, very cheap. In contrast with many other locations in Central and Eastern Europe it is also wide-ranging and restaurants here usually have vegetarian and vegan options. (Gone are the days when “vegetarian” food just meant the soups with only a bit of bacon in them.)

That said, let’s start with some options for the carnivores:

Meat: The Hilton has a very good steak restaurant, The Able Butcher, on site, just opposite from the check-in desk. It’s quite pricy, especially for this city, but it’s good. You might also like Beefhouse, about a 10-minute walk away, just past the Hotel Embassy. The best schnitzel found by the PokerStars Blog crew through a decade coming to Prague is to be had at Pivovarsky Klub, on Křižíkova 17, again about a 10-minute walk from the Hilton. Come for the schnitzel, stay for the 100+ beers on offer (or the other way around). If it’s purely quantity you’re after, and some pretty good quality traditional fare too, then try any one of at least six Kolkovna restaurants. But be hungry. Be very hungry. (And expect meat sweats.)

Local: A restaurant called The Gate always does very well during EPT time. It’s only a five minute walk from the tournament room and has a huge menu, so is worth checking out in a dinner break. (Word of warning: it’s not always the quickest service, so be careful if you’re a short stack and can’t afford to miss a blind or two.) Only a few metres further down the same street, Sokolovská, you’ll find cheap and very quick curry and pho restaurants, which can get you back in time for the first orbit after the break. The Hilton is also only five minutes from a McDonalds, if you must. It’s under the overpass by Florenc metro station.

Vegetarian: There’s an excellent vegetarian snack bar/restaurant just across the parking lot from the Hilton Prague tournament room. It’s called Veggie Garden and does delicious hot and cold food. The only drawback is that it’s not open for dinner. There are, however, numerous Indian restaurants in Prague that are really good for vegetarians, and also places like Vegan City, on Husitská, or the brilliant Vegan’s Prague, which are a little further afield. If you know what to expect, MyRaw Cafe is also terrific. It is devoted to raw vegan food “where all ingredients are processed only up to temperature of 42°C and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Snacks: There’s really no excuse for being hungry during the tournaments at EPT Prague, regardless of your budget. Just across the parking lot is a small shopping mall in which you’ll find a Costa Coffee, a couple of very good snack bars (selling sandwiches, salads, etc.) and Albert supermarket. If you walk all the way through it and out the other end, there’s a Billa supermarket. You’ve all been in a supermarket before, so no need for an explanation. There’s all kinds of food in there, and it’s cheap. (Heads up: take a bag if you can otherwise you’ll need to buy one.)

High end: Prague has literally hundreds of restaurants, some of which rank among the best in Europe. La Degustation and Field have Michelin stars, while both Eska and Sansho are very close to the Hilton and earn regular rave reviews. This being Prague, you won’t need to win the Main Event to afford it. Maybe just skip one side event, and you’re in.

NEED TO KNOW

The Czech Republic is in the European Union, but it is not in the Eurozone, which means it retains its own currency. The Czech koruna (CZK) is the only currency accepted across most of the smaller shops and restaurants. Some of the bigger places will allow you to pay in Euros, and the EPT tournament buy-ins and cash games use Euros as the base currency. But make sure you have a stock of koruna too, particularly coins if you’re going to be using the metro.

If you need any further info about pretty much everything to do with Prague, the Honest Guide on YouTube is simply indispensable. It’s probably the best YouTube travel series out there, and it just happens to be focused on this particular city.

TRAVEL TIPS

Here are two tips that should make your stay at EPT Prague much more comfortable and enjoyable.

The first is that the shopping mall across from the Hilton (through the parking lot opposite the tournament room entrance) has pretty much everything you need to survive: a pharmacy, a supermarket and a decent coffee shop. You might want to visit at least once a day.

Secondly: Prague has a really good metro system that is very easy to use, and Florenc station is a very short walk from the Hilton. Once you’ve got to grips with this, you can explore so much more of this huge and richly rewarding place. There are three lines: the green A line, the yellow B line and the red C line. Florenc is one of stations that is an interchange, meaning you can access both B and C lines from there, while the A line is only two stops away.

Prague Metro map

A single ticket, good for any journey taking less than 90 minutes, is 32 CZK (about $1.40). (If your trip is even shorter, ie., less than 30 minutes, it’s 24 CZK, which is about $1.) You can also buy a full day pass for less than $5. The ticket vending machines in the station concourses have instructions in English — but take loose change, and it’s so much easier. One other crucial piece of information: you need to validate your ticket before getting on the train, which means sticking it into the yellow box at the top of the escalators. That should keep you on the right side of the law.

DID YOU KNOW?

There are five professional football (soccer) clubs in Prague: Sparta, Slavia, Bohemians 1905, FK Dukla Praha and FK Victoria Zizkov. At time of writing, the first three are in the Premier Division. Tickets are usually available, so get along to a match if you have the chance.

PREVIOUS EPT PRAGUE RESULTS

MAIN EVENTS

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